At the end of last year, American filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash‘s powerful documentary A2-B-C, which focuses on a group of mothers and their children living in the invisible shadow cast by the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, was screened as part of the Hiroshima Peace Film Festival.
Since the first explosions at the plant on March 12 2011, I have been highly skeptical of any information released by TEPCO and government officials, as well as their response to the disaster and its consequences. Even so, I was shocked at both the plight of the families featured in the film and the lengths to which officialdom has gone to keep them in the dark. The film left me speechless, upset and angry.
It is very difficult to get a film like this out of the festival circuit and onto general release, but Ian Thomas Ash has worked some gyaku-yunyuu (“reverse-import”- a term used when something created in Japan only gets attention in Japan after receiving acclaim overseas) magic, taking the film to one international film festival after another, picking up prizes and accolades as he goes.
At the Q&A after the Hiroshima screening last November, I somewhat churlishly asked the director why, if the story was so important, was the film only being seen at film festivals, and not available to all, free on the web. He alluded to some of the difficulties that the mothers featured in the film had had to endure within their communities and even within their own families, in speaking out, and to their ongoing concerns about consequences of the film being let free on the internet. It became clear during the Q&A and in an informal chat over dinner, that Ian Thomas Ash sees his work as in service to the mothers of Fukushima and their children, that he is an accidental activist who now feels compelled and duty-bound to tell the story with he has been entrusted, wherever people will listen.
A2-B-C secured a Tokyo run beginning in May, attendance at which would determine whether the film would make it out into the provinces. Tokyo showed up, and thanks to those who made the effort to see the film in the capital, the film returns to Hiroshima for a two week run at Yokogawa Cinema. A recent right wing attack on the film, its director and the mothers involved, suggests that the story is, ripple by ripple, making its way towards a wider and wider audience.
If you only go the cinema once this year, make sure it’s to see A2-B-C.
Reactions to A2-B-C
A2-B-C is showing at Yokogawa Cinema June 21-26 at 15:10, June 28 at 10:00 and June 30-July 6 at 10:10 and 11:40. The film is in Japanese with English subtitles.